Monday, April 7, 2008

Springfield: does the right hand know what the left hand is doing?

Last week two events of some significance were held in Springfield, MA, a "Developers' Conference" and a seminar on green space development and preservation.

The developers' conference took 110 developers on a tour of Springfield to look at potential sites such as the old York St. Jail site on Columbus Ave and the Smith and Wesson Industrial Park. Given the economic times, Mayor Sarno's plan to proactively recruit developers is a good effort.

The Green Space conference (which cost $35) was a follow-up on Springfield's ranking among the best green cities in the U.S. last year by Country Home magazine. This ranking, by the way, does not mean the city has a top-ranked environmental policy-- only that we are blessed with much green space and waterways and we have managed to preserve them to a high degree-- no small potatoes in this day and age.

That said, no developer was told that their project would receive priority if it included elements of green design.

What makes a building green? California's Integrated Waste Management Board defines it this way:
  • A green building, also known as a sustainable building, is a structure that is designed, built, renovated, operated, or reused in an ecological and resource-efficient manner. Green buildings are designed to meet certain objectives such as protecting occupant health; improving employee productivity; using energy, water, and other resources more efficiently; and reducing the overall impact to the environment.

What are a few of the elements of green design?
  • Takes advantage of mass transit, protects the existing landscaping and natural features, uses recycled materials.
  • Uses natural lighting strategies, uses an energy-efficient heating and cooling system, uses light-colored roofing.
  • Uses designs that promote recycling, uses low-flush toilets and designs state-of-the-art irrigation controls.
There's much more, of course, that can be done. But as long as Springfield lacks an integrated approach to development, as long as the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing, we will continue to miss important opportunities to become more energy-independent and to make a significant contribution to the quality of our environment.

Photo by Bill Weye

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